Thoughts on L’Taken Seminar at RAC, February 25-28, 2011 – Washington DC Bea and Larry Abrams
We had the privilege of chaperoning 9 of our temple’s teens for a weekend in Washington, DC, sponsored by The Religious Action Center (of the Union for Reform Judaism). It was the second time we participated in the program, called L’Taken (meaning to heal or fix). While the program was similar to that of last year, we were still impressed by its timeliness, scope and depth, as well as the professionalism and approachability of the RAC staff. We also were awed by how well the students became involved. Their grasp of subject matter and final presentations would make any rational person proud.
Our group was part of a session involving close to 300 teens from temples across the country, and included: Charlee Carter, Matt Harvey, Megan Kahle, Aiden Lewy, Erika Lewy, Rachel Podgorski, Sami Schwade, Rachel Strauss and Rachel Weil. L’Taken gave our teens the opportunity to discuss and debate issues that are being considered and argued by Congress and by our society. Using presentations, simulation exercises and training sessions the L’Taken staff presented the issues, legislative updates and the position of Reformed Judaism on topics such as homelessness, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, global AIDs crisis, environmental issues, the equal rights debates in Israel, the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, unemployment issues during the recession, immigration issues, embryonic stem cell research, and international human rights. All issues were discussed in the context of applicable Jewish teachings from the Torah and commentaries.
In addition to the educational sessions, participants saw bits of the capitol, with visits to the Holocaust Museum, World War II Memorial, Smithsonian museums/mall, and Georgetown. The culminating effort by students was the preparation of well
structured lobbying presentations on subjects of their choice, which they presented to legislative aides for Congressman Lance, Senator Menendez and Senator Lautenberg in the House/Senate Office Buildings. Matt, Megan, Sami and Rachel S. lobbied on the LGBT/Anti-Bullying issue, while Aiden, Erika, Rachel P. and Rachel W. chose the topic of Economic Justice/Poverty – extension of unemployment insurance. Charlee introduced the presentations for Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Lance. For each issue, the presentations explored the impact on our country, perspectives of Jewish belief, relevant personal anecdotes, and finally, specific requests for legislative follow-up. Thus, each student had the opportunity to present one segment of one issue. All three legislative aides to whom the presentations were made commented on their high quality.
Outside of formal presentations, the RAC L’Taken program provides an exciting venue for informal, enjoyable, and educational interactions with Jewish teens from all over the country, as well as the rabbis and educators that accompany them. L’Taken is a unique intersection of our Jewish culture and values with social justice and action. Our country and much of the world are facing difficult issues. The daily news often is frustrating and aggravating. The L’Taken seminar provided tools to approach and dissect complex societal issues. More importantly it gave the students the sense of empowerment necessary to act upon them.
The RAC 2011
I sat on the hillside
Watching a sunrise –
Watching the fog dissipate
As light crept over the horizon.
I saw the blanket
Cacooned around them
Slowly dehisce as
With feelings of internal warmth
Their wings unfurled
And in the ever brighter day They flew skyward.
I shaded my eyes from the brightness And watched
As they flitted –
First in random patterns
Then ever more directly.
Guided by an internal compass, Pulled by magnetic forces
That directed so many before, They set a course
Of their own choosing.
The sun will reach its zenith And then set
The light will fade behind me But I know
That above my shadow
The sunlight will reflect the beautiful colors Of their fluttering wings as they move
With new found confidence
I no longer can see.